88. Telegram 3289 From the Embassy in Brazil to the Department of State1

3289. Subject: Assessment of U.S.-Brazilian Relations.

1. In the course of my calls on the President, the Foreign Minister, and other Ministers and senior Brazilian leaders incident to my departure from the country, I have been struck by the consistency of their remarks concerning the state of U.S.-Brazilian relations. I share their view that relations have probably never been better. This is of course due to a combination of factors which I shall touch upon in this, my final substantive message from Brazil as Ambassador, but clearly the general atmosphere created by top level relationships, notably that between President Nixon and President Médici, is one of the most important aspects. The recent visit of Secretary Rogers and his cordial talks with Brazilian leaders contributed significantly in this regard.

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2. Brazil has responded extremely well to our enunciation of the concept of a mature partnership. Indeed, no other approach could have succeeded as well in this country which, following the revolution of 1964, has developed a sense of national purpose and cohesion second to none in Latin America. The chaos and confusion of the early 60’s have been replaced by order and a sense of direction, supported by a Cabinet largely of technocrats who have been highly successful in devising pragmatic policies and methods conducive to rapid progress. The new confidence which has been developed has rendered it possible for Brazilian leaders to discuss outstanding issues in a manner devoid of the hang-ups which so often mar reasonable negotiation among nations of the hemisphere.

3. In the nine years since the revolution the Brazilian regime has consolidated its position and established a substantial degree of political stability and tranquility. The major speculation at present is upon the choice of President Médici’s successor, and whether under the new leadership there will be any fundamental change. It seems reasonably certain in my view that the military leadership of Brazil, with a key input by President Médici, will select a successor unlikely to depart drastically from current policies. Whether Ernesto Geisel, widely regarded at this time to be the front runner, or another senior general (the possibility of which I have never discounted) is selected, the incumbent is likely to seek sustained stability and an essential continuity of policy, although some change of style is likely, particularly in terms of less obsession with security measures. Ernesto Geisel, for instance, has the public image of being politically somewhat more liberal than Médici. Thus a Geisel administration might lift some of the present restrictions on the body politic. That might include such measures as easing censorship, and possibly establishing a meaningful dialogue with the legislature and modifying the terms of some of the extraordinary legislation such as Institutional Act No. 5. Although it is not envisaged that within the next few years the executive, and ultimately the military establishment, would relinquish control over the decision-making process, these actions would be preliminary steps towards a gradual political “opening.”

4. As in any society, there are counter-forces which, if they grew in an unbridled fashion, could lead to a different outcome. There are those who seek to turn Brazil’s nationalism away from a cooperative stance toward the United States, advocating instead courses tying the nation primarily to other world groupings, or to an inward-looking system less compatible with our views on a desirable world structure. In their present eclipse, these forces tend to be disregarded, but they retain nevertheless a considerable potential. The pattern of our present relationships with Brazil has helped to contain them; this pattern not only must be retained but further improved.

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5. Assuming that political stability will be maintained, the prospects for sustained economic progress in the coming few years are very good. The international business community continues to look confidently upon Brazil as a prime investment opportunity, and international lending agencies as well as governments are likely to remain sources of investment capital of substantial magnitude. Brazil’s firm commitment to private enterprise as the motor of development is unlikely, under anticipated conditions, to alter, and foreign investment will continue to be important as a means of growth. If, therefore, the successor regime permits the same degree of pragmatic and imaginative use of the tools of government which has characterized the Médici period, Brazil should register a continued high rate of economic growth, and prospects for the United States to benefit through mutually advantageous trade are most promising if we are able to maintain our competitive position.

6. It is clear that at the present time Brazil considers its friendly relations with the United States to be the cornerstone of its policy, and that situation will remain for the foreseeable future. Brazil is a growing power with strong policies based first on its national interest, but reaching out for regional and in some degree world leadership. It sees its future intertwined with that of the United States, and this fact will, in my judgement, render it possible for our bilateral relationships to continue on a mutually satisfactory basis.

7. We have been successful in the past few years in finding acceptable solutions to virtually all of the bilateral issues which have arisen. This success has been attained by a pragmatic approach and a willingness to find means to achieve agreement in practice, even in cases where differences in principle must be preserved by the respective parties. Of the remaining disagreements, international commodity agreements and the Law of the Seas are the most troublesome. It is significant that the more difficult problems require action largely in multilateral fora. To the extent to which aspects of these problems can be resolved on a bilateral basis, this has so far been done with relative ease.

8. A number of actions of the Brazilian Government in the recent past have been sources of particular gratification, but none more so than decisions of the Brazilian military leadership to strengthen relations with the United States in every practicable way. Thus President Médici recently approved the procurement by the Brazilian Air Force of F–5 aircraft, not only because of financial and technical considerations but also, importantly, because of the political decision that military ties with the United States are of great importance. Similar decisions with respect to helicopters and other important military equipment have signified a decline in the bitter resentment by Brazilian [Page 251] military leaders of what they considered to be an earlier unreasonable and paternalistic attitude on the part of the United States with respect to sales of military equipment, an attitude which had caused them to turn primarily to European sources of supply.

9. There are, of course, important discussions and negotiations ahead in which we will be seeking Brazilian support on such matters as international monetary reform, multilateral trade relations, the future of the OAS, the Law of the Seas, and others. The atmosphere for these negotiations and discussions is good, and thus also are the prospects for at least some degree of success. Beyond that, we must pursue and tailor our programs in this country in a manner designed to reinforce the base of solid human relations which underlies and gives warmth and force to our excellent bilateral relations. In this way we hope that as Brazil matures and gains strength, it will continue to be one of our closest and warmest friends, and an asset in an area of particular importance to us. So long as Brazil, with half the land area and population of South America, and with a high percentage of the resources of the continent, acts along present lines, we can proceed with an otherwise impossible degree of confidence in the future of the area.

  1. Summary: Rountree reported on Brazilian internal politics and the good prospects for sustained economic growth. The Ambassador added that while the United States and Brazil had failed to achieve consensus on international commodity agreements and the Law of the Sea, the Brazilian military’s decision to strengthen ties with the United States boded well for future relations.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL BRAZ–US. Confidential. Repeated to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.